Currently signed to Wilhelmina Models, Coco Young is best known for being a muse to photographers Ryan McGinley and Richard Kern and classical painter John Currin. But she’s more interested in photography than modelling. She was born a new yorker but grew up in Marseille and has been living back in New York for 6 years where she’s also completing a degree in Art History and English literature at Columbia University. Learn more about Coco after the jump!
Could you please summarize your career and background?
I started taking pictures when one of my neighbors in France asked me to photograph my trajectory to school every morning for a week. She gave me a disposable camera and then a Holga. When I moved to New York I began modeling and I stopped taking pictures at first because I was around so many talented photographers that I felt like it wasn’t the right time for me to be “the photographer” and that I should just “be the model”. Eventually I started shooting again.
What most influenced you to explore art? How did you end up on your particular path?
Growing up in France, I was always exposed to art. I specifically loved the expressionists and most French painting from the 19th century. I spent a lot of time at the Orsay museum in Paris looking at Degas and Manet, and, growing up in the south of France, I was acclimated to the environment of Cezanne. Marseille was originally a Greek city, and I was fascinated with Greek and Roman mythology, and consequently the art that these Mediterranean cultures produced. I wasn’t really exposed to contemporary art until I had been seeking it out as a young adult. I started thinking about art differently after seeing the Sophie Calle exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in 2004.
On the topic of gear: do you think it matters when trying to make that great picture?
I don’t think gear matters at all. I think cameras are like cars. You can drive a crappy car, and it still gets you to where you want to go. What matters the most is how you drive the car.
Is there another medium feel comfortable with besides photography?
Who/what inspires you these days?
My friends mostly, going to the Met here in New York, my classes at school, Joan Didion… these things are always inspiring to me but, if I must speak of what is inspiring me at the moment, there is this prison on the outskirts of Marseille located right next to a hill. The families of the prisoners will climb on the hill and scream to the top of their lungs to communicate with their family member in the prison. They are able to communicate like that because their voices echo in the crevice between the hill and the tall prison walls. I can’t stop thinking about this sad but beautiful image of the power of humanity conquering nature.
What’s the latest project you have been working on?
My last project for a magazine was to shoot the portrait of the notorious young writer Tao Lin for Dazed and Confused. As for personal projects, I am working on a short film about the estrangement one can experience caused by the incessant need to use technology.
What kind of project would you like to be involved in afterwards? Why?
Movies, movies, movies because they are magic.
What do you miss the most and what are you glad to have left behind of the city where you grew up?
I miss the Mediterranean culture, the noise, the smells, the seagulls, the dirty streets of Marseille. I don’t miss its lack of opportunity.
Do you like cooking? What is you favourite dish?
I love cooking and my favorite dish is tarte a la tomate.
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